Women’s Basketball: It’s d

Danny Daly

Perimeter struggles. Turnover troubles. Double teams in the post. If the calendar didn’t say 2010, Northwestern might think it was last season all over again.

During the Wildcats’ four-game losing streak, junior center Amy Jaeschke has received an increasing amount of attention. Both Minnesota and Purdue held NU’s leading scorer to less than 10 points after she scored in double figures in the previous nine games.

“I felt like it was a little bit like last year,” coach Joe McKeown said. “When you’re getting double teams, you’ve got to make shots out of that. It’s something we have to address because, until people do that, she’s going to get double-teamed.”

The problem was particularly apparent in Sunday’s 53-42 loss to the Boilermakers. Three of Cats’ secondary scorers-senior guard Kristin Cartwright and freshman forwards Dannielle Diamant and Kendall Hackney-combined to shoot just 3-of-24 from the field. NU made one-fourth of its shots for the game.

That enabled Purdue to clamp down even more on Jaeschke, limiting her to eight points.

“Especially against Purdue, we noticed they doubled Amy every play-that was their goal,” Hackney said. “Amy is our best player and she’s strong in there, so they know that if they stop her, it’s going to be harder.”

NU’s next chance to break its losing skid will come Saturday at home against Minnesota. The game is a rematch from less than two weeks ago, when the Gophers prevailed 72-65 and overcame an 11-point halftime deficit.

Jaeschke took only five shots in that loss, her lowest total of the season. The Cats know they need to get their top offensive force more involved.

“We have to get her better shots,” McKeown said. “We have to get her the ball in better spots, we have to change some of our offensive structure a little bit to adjust to that. Not that we just want to completely junk what we’re doing, but she has to get more touches.”

Since NU can’t afford to let opponents eliminate Jaeschke from its offensive attack, one way to take pressure off her is to create more options if the defense collapses.

“We do not give up on trying to give her the ball,” said junior point guard Beth Marshall, who leads the Cats in 3-pointers with 30. “We know she’s our biggest threat. But what we’ve been working on is, once we get her the ball, to get a better angle-get her an outlet or dive into the basket. I’d most likely stay out on the 3-point line, but for the other guards to dive on the weak side or come behind her.”

Ballhandling was another problem against Purdue, as NU committed 13 first-half turnovers-with Jaeschke, Diamant and Hackney contributing 11 of them. The wasted possessions resulted in only 15 points for the Cats before intermission.

While McKeown admitted NU’s turnovers come “in all shapes and sizes,” poor passing has been the biggest culprit. Giving substantial playing time to two freshmen explains some of the mistakes.

“The people we have, they’re finishers,” McKeown said. “This happens a lot in college basketball, women’s basketball especially. A lot of our players that were really good high school players aren’t used to passing the ball-they’re used to getting it and scoring. The transition into college, where you have to become a feeder, takes time.”

Fortunately for the Cats, they have had plenty of time to work on the changes. Due to the mid-week bye, NU didn’t play Thursday and used the week to prepare for one opponent.

“You probably couldn’t have timed the bye any better,” McKeown said. “It’s a perfect time for this team to regroup.”

And the Cats still have pleasant memories from the last time the Gophers visited Welsh-Ryan Arena. Riding a string of 10 losses in its last 11 games, NU knocked off NCAA Tournament-bound Minnesota 62-53 in its most impressive performance of last season.

The Cats are searching for a similar effort to snap their current slump.

“That was a huge win for us last year,” Jaeschke said. “We really match up well with this team, so it’s a great team for us to sort of get our feet back under us and get more confidence.”

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